I used to read the blogs about parents of teens with type 1 diabetes and what a challenge it is to deal with these strong-willed kids. They spoke of the battles they would have over blood sugar checks, or forgetting to dose for meals, and they were frustrated at the strain that these diabetes-related arguments put on their relationships. I’ll admit that at the time, I thought that would never be us! Kaitlyn has always been so sweet, easygoing, and responsible. How could we ever have the stereotypical parent-teen struggles?
Well, here we are, and Kaitlyn is now officially a teenager. And you guessed it: We’re having some of those struggles. She has become more and more independent with her diabetes care over the last couple years, which is awesome, but also really scary! She is still my most kind-hearted, easygoing, and responsible child, but she’s also very forgetful when it comes to blood sugar checks and dosing before meals. I don’t blame her completely — having diabetes is something that is so much a part of her life that she’s almost become desensitized to how important daily management tasks really are.
She often puts off doing blood sugar checks, ignores low pump battery warnings and blood sugar alarms, and completely forgets to dose for meals until her number is high. I feel like I’m nagging her all the time, and she feels upset that I’m getting after her. She often gets angry at me or at diabetes in general, and she makes excuses and blames her pump or glucose meter. In general, we’ve got a lot of negativity building up.
New Year’s is always a good time to set new goals, and she and I have talked a lot about how to make things better. Here are some of our ideas:
Give her tools.
One of the things that was the biggest help for me when Kaitlyn was first diagnosed was to set alarms throughout the day and night to check blood sugar. Now that she’s doing checks more on her own, we decided to set up alarms on her phone to help her remember. They’re silent alarms, and they give her a reminder to do a “quick check.” A quick check just means to look at her number on her CGM (continuous glucose monitor), test her blood sugar if needed, and give a correction if needed. She also makes sure her CGM is calibrated and everything is up and running properly. A wall calendar is also really helpful as a visual reminder for us both to know when to do site and sensor changes.
Establish habits and routines.
This one is going to take some time, but we’re working on building habits to check and dose before anything goes in her mouth. Oftentimes Kaitlyn will begin eating, intending to dose right away, and before she knows it, a half hour has gone by (or longer) and she still needs to dose. We made little signs and put them all over the kitchen — on the fridge, cupboard, and silverware drawer. She also has a “morning list” and “night list” that remind her to check and dose at those key times of the day.
Step back in.
Although it’s been years now that Kaitlyn has been gradually taking on more and more of her diabetes management, at times I think she feels a little bit abandoned — like it’s all on her. She admits that although she likes to do things on her own, she would be willing to let me step back in and be more involved in managing everything once in a while. It will take some discipline on my end as well, making sure I’ve got her back without making her feel like I don’t trust her or that I don’t think she’s capable.
Remember that struggles aren’t bad.
Overall, we’re learning that even though it has been a challenge to balance independence with parental support, Kaitlyn is experiencing a huge growth opportunity. Every mistake she makes is something that she can learn from.
Above all, I’m hoping that we remember that our relationship is most important. We’re still really new at the teenager thing, and I know many of you could write a book on what works and what doesn’t. However, I truly believe that we can get through the bumps and slumps together as long as we keep things positive. And as long as we both remember that our relationship is so much more than nagging about numbers.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.